September 2021

Letter from the Executive Director


“You get out of an organization what you put into it.”

That saying has been used over the years yet remains true to this day. AACP – your professional HVAC association – remained committed to service your needs with successful in-person networking and celebratory events, our online apprenticeship program, along with a continued investment to provide necessary training.

In late August, 72 AACP and family members gathered for a Bowie Baysox game to celebrate the accomplishments of over 62 apprentices who graduated from our Apprenticeship Program in the last two years. Down the third base line, there was a celebration for the apprentices, and a homecoming, of sorts, for members. Eighteen months is a long time not to get together in-person. That night, well, it made up for lost time. Thank you Erin Bauguess-Kimes for the idea!

Two weeks later, we conducted the Curbside Pick-Up for 157 apprentices enrolled in our 2022 Apprenticeship Program. As an approved Sponsor of an Apprenticeship Program in the State of Virginia, we have expanded the reach of our expertise. A huge congratulations to our Program Director, Aleka McKenzie-Brown, who coordinated this effort and has taken our apprenticeship program to a new level.

Over 65 members and colleagues had a great round of golf on a gorgeous day in September. We not only had two beverage carts - Thank you R.E. Michel Company, but we added a Bloody Mary Bar as you rounded the first hole - Thank you Carrier Enterprise - MidAtlantic. A big round of applause to all our sponsors – Northeastern Supply, Criswell Auto, Federated Insurance, Kollman & Saucier, PA. Ferguson HVAC, Alternative Insurance Management, LLC, and Making Air Right, LLC. Last but not least, thank you to our dinner sponsor – Boland!

In September, over 16 members joined a complimentary session with our legal expert Frank Kollman. What a discussion! What great advice! These quarterly legal discussions only help us be better at what we do. Register for the last quarterly session of the year – Thursday, November 18, 2021.

Our Heat Exchanger Experts program in early October is sold out. Technicians will have the opportunity to see stress points, fracture zones, and design considerations which they MUST know to properly inspect a furnace.

Those who participated in any or all the activities, above, got to network, talk shop, and have fun with colleagues. Don’t be left out. Register for upcoming events and reap the rewards.

As always, stay safe.

Peter

Peter Constantinou
Executive Director

Upcoming events


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HVAC Technologies Promise to Help Schools Reopen Safely

Array of indoor air quality products available, but evaluate carefully

Contributed by the ACHR News

As the school year starts, districts across the country are still deciding if they will have in-person classes and if the students in those classes will be wearing masks. HVAC plays a major part in these decisions, with districts spending millions of dollars to improve ventilation and add IAQ features. Several companies are promoting their solutions to the school market.

Air-Clenz Systems is one of those companies. It recently released a video specific to the school market showing how its technology helps reduce the spread of viruses in the classroom. In the video, an Air-Clenz device is placed on a student’s desk. When the student exhales, his breath is directed to the device via a plastic shield. The device then cleans and redistributes the air. The company says that using these individual devices allows “for the earlier removal of masks.”

Ron Blum, the inventor of Air-Clenz, said staff at the company studied the ways exhaled air leaves a person's mouth and nose to travel throughout an enclosed space. They also studied the limitations of a large-scale HVAC system in cleaning that air. Since the unit sits two feet from each student, Air-Clenz CEO Stuart Sheldon said, it captures pathogens faster and more effectively.

“Existing ventilation systems aren't built for the removal of pathogens quickly,” Sheldon said. “In fact, most of the time, ventilation systems pull unhealthy air across a room, past other people … rather than eliminating them."

HEPA Filter for the Classroom

Another firm takes a more traditional route to improving classroom IAQ by upgrading filtration. Steril-Aire announced the release of its new ceiling HEPA Pro+ air filtration system. The company claims this solution reduces the size, noise, and associated pressure drops of most HEPA systems currently on the market.

The Steril-Aire system is installed above the drop ceiling in a classroom. It runs independently of HVAC systems to eliminate pressure drop issues.

Both Air-Clenz and Steril-Aire say their solutions will provide benefits even after the pandemic ends. Air-Clenz said its air purifiers will help reduce the spread of more common viruses, such as the flu. Steril-Aire’s press release points to the ways HEPA filtration helps in areas experiencing wildfires.

Air Purification Draws Investors

Some investors see a long-term potential for IAQ products in schools. Wynd Technologies Inc., a Redwood, California-maker of AI-powered indoor air monitoring and purification technologies, announced recently the closing of a $10 million funding round, co-led by DBL Partners and Greensoil PropTech Ventures (GSPV). Wynd has been in the consumer market for air purification for years and recently moved into larger applications, including those for schools.

Wynd's Max room air purifier offers a 1,200-square-foot range. It can be paired with the company's Halo air quality monitor to create regular IAQ reports. The technology can be integrated with major HVAC systems and other products offering air purification solutions.

CEO and founder Raymond Wu started developing the technology after a trip to Beijing caused an adverse reaction due to the city’s large amount of air pollution. Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner of DBL Partners, said her firm views Wynd Technologies as “a key ally in the movement for climate justice."

"Healthy and safe indoor air quality is a fundamental human right, not a privilege," Wu said.

HVAC contractors considering offering any of these products need to do their due diligence. There have been numerous companies promoting IAQ solutions since the start of the pandemic. Not all have lived up to the hype, while others have produced negative tradeoffs. Some may prove impractical or carry too high a cost for customers such as school districts, which are paying for most upgrades through one-time funding from grants and the federal government.


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Interested in Becoming a Member of AACP?

We have three categories of membership. They are:

Contractor membership is open to any company engaged principally in the heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning business as a contractor, who becomes a contractor member of the national association, and who is not a subsidiary, affiliate, division, or related entity of a public utility.

Associate membership is open to companies engaged in (a) manufacturing, (b) wholesaling, jobbing, and selling allied products or equipment principally to contractors and/or (c) supplying fuels, energies, or other services beneficial to the industry.  Associate membership is not open to retailers or other suppliers who sell principally to the general public.  Associate members have voting rights and can hold an elected office. Subsidiaries, affiliates, related entities, and divisions of associate members are not eligible for membership in the association.

Vocational membership
shall be available to teachers, students, heating inspectors, and other such individuals having interest in the environmental systems industry.  Vocational members shall not have the right to vote and hold an elected office.

GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEMBERSHIP


  • Local, State and National Legislative & Advocacy efforts
  • Participation in the nationally recognized Apprenticeship Program
  • Education opportunities for your technicians and staff - (NATE, CFC, Business management, Legal and Legislative)
  • Industry Resources - (IRS documents, Risk Management documents, white papers, Code Compliance, six e-Newsletters)
  • Member pricing for events and training sessions
  • A discounted rate on insurance for member companies


Virginia OSHA Covid Standard

By: Frank Kollman, Management Labor Law, Kollman & Saucier, P.A. 

Virginia OSHA, also known as VOSH, was the first government agency to issue Covid regulations during the pandemic.  VOSH continues to lead, and its requirements apply to all Virginia employers.  Maryland, however, has not acted itself (MOSH).

You should download the VOSH standard and have your safety officer review it. Nevertheless, here are some highlights:

  • Employers shall have a policy in place to ensure compliance with the requirements in this section.
  • Employers shall assess their workplace for hazards and job tasks that can potentially expose employees to the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19 disease.
  • Employers may rely on an employee’s representation of being fully vaccinated.
  • Employers shall not permit suspected or confirmed COVID-19 employees or other persons to report to or remain at the work site or engage in work at a customer or client location until cleared for return to work.
  • To the extent permitted by law, including HIPAA, employers shall establish a system to receive reports of positive COVID-19 tests by employees, subcontractors, contract employees, and temporary employees.
  • If an employee tests positive for Covid, employers shall notify:
  1. The employer's own employees who may have been exposed, within 24 hours of discovery of the employees' possible exposure, while keeping confidential the identity of the confirmed COVID-19 person in accordance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 USC § 1201 et seq.) and other applicable federal and Virginia laws and regulations;
  2. In the same manner as subdivision 7 a of this subsection, other employers whose employees were present at the work site during the same time period;
  3. In the same manner as subdivision 7 a of this subsection, the building or facility owner.
  4. The Virginia Department of Health; and
  5. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry within 24 hours of the discovery of two or more of its own employees present at the place of employment within a 14-day period testing positive for COVID-19 during that 14-day time period.
  • Employers shall not require employees to pay for the cost of COVID-19 testing for return-to-work determinations.
  • There are special requirements for employees who share vehicles or drive together, with exceptions for the fully vaccinated.
  • The following are exceptions to the requirements for face coverings or surgical masks for employees that are not fully vaccinated:
      1. When an employee is alone in a room.
      2. While an employee is eating and drinking at the workplace, provided each employee is at least six feet away from any other person, or separated from other people by a physical barrier.
      3. When employees are wearing respiratory protection in accordance with 16VAC25-90-1910.134 or this chapter.
  • [Perhaps a sales opportunity?]. Employers shall ensure that air-handling systems under their control:
      • Are maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; and
      • Where feasible and within the design parameters of the system, are utilized as follows:
          1. Increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces provided that a greater hazard is not created (e.g., airflow that is increased too much may make doors harder to open or may blow doors open);
          2. In ground transportation settings, use natural ventilation to increase outdoor air dilution of inside air in a manner that will aid in mitigating the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease transmission to employees and when environmental conditions and transportation safety and health requirements allow;
          3. Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate filter fit and check for ways to minimize filter bypass;
          4. Increase air filtration to as high as possible in a manner that will still enable the system to provide airflow rates as the system design requires. Ensure compliance with higher filtration values is allowed by the air handler manufacturer's installation instructions and listing;
          5. Generate clean-to-less-clean air movements by re-evaluating the positioning of supply and exhaust air diffusers and/or dampers and adjusting zone supply and exhaust flow rates to establish measurable pressure differentials;
          6. Have staff work in "clean" ventilation zones that do not include higher-risk areas such as visitor reception or exercise facilities (if open);
          7. Ensure exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating continuously when the building is occupied;
          8. If the system's design can accommodate such an adjustment and is allowed by the air handler manufacturer's installation instructions and listing, improve central air filtration to MERV-13 and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass; and
          9. Check filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed.
      • Comply with USBC and applicable referenced American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standards.
  • Discrimination against an employee for exercising rights under this chapter is prohibited.

As I explained during our last Hot Legal Topics Zoom Meeting, federal OSHA has been directed to adopt OSHA regulations for Covid for employers of 100 or more employees.  A federal standard, however, will not supersede a state standard if the state standard is stricter.  Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, states can adopt stricter safety standards than OSHA requires.



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About the Author


Frank Kollman

I am a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University (1974) and the Syracuse University College of Law (cum laude, 1977), where I was an editor of the law review and the Survey of New York Law. I have practiced law in Maryland since 1977 and established the Firm in 1988. I was raised in South Jersey, five miles from Atlantic City, which in those days had no casinos. I could see Convention Hall from my backyard across the tidal marshlands.

Upon graduation, I spent my first five years practicing labor and employment law with two of the largest law firms in Maryland. In 1982, I joined a firm that had concentrated in labor and employment law for over forty years, where I became a partner in 1984. While at that firm, I created and edited an employment law newsletter, Employment Issues. In addition, I produced an educational film for hospital management concerning unions.

By 1988, I knew that I had to work in a firm that reflected my character, and the only way to do that was to start my own place.  This firm, the people in it, and the work we do is my biography.  Anything else is a footnote. I have practiced management labor law for over 40 years. To me, telling a client what is legal can be markedly different from telling him what the best business decision is. The best business decision is the better choice. There are other lawyers with impressive credentials, but there are few with the devotion I have for my client’s cause. I lecture, I publish, and I have done public service. I am a monthly columnist on labor and legal issues for the National Clothesline, the newspaper for the dry cleaning industry. I represent a wide variety of businesses, construction companies, health care institutions, and trade associations, both union and nonunion.

Join Frank at his Quarterly Legal Update Sessions to ask any questions you may have regarding HR, Employment, and Labor Law, complimentary!

Register Here for the November 18 Event

If there is something specific you would like Frank to discuss, email us with topics at info@aacpnet.org.

Require Proof of Vaccination?

Presented by our sponsor - Federated Insurance

Question

Can a business require employees to show proof they are vaccinated against Covid-19? If the employee is not vaccinated or refuses to show proof of vaccination can the business legally require those employees who are not vaccinated or refuses to show proof of vaccination to wear a mask inside the business?

Answer

Within the guidelines set forth by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are not prohibited from asking applicants and employees whether they have received the COVID-19 vaccine and if they have, can also request receipts of such vaccinations. We recommend reviewing this guidance which can be found at section K HERE), particularly at question K.9. which provides:

"K.9. Under the ADA, is it a 'disability-related inquiry' for an employer to inquire about or request documentation or other confirmation that an employee obtained the COVID-19 vaccine from a third party in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic? (12/16/20, updated 5/28/21)

No. When an employer asks employees whether they obtained a COVID-19 vaccine from a third party in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic, the employer is not asking a question that is likely to disclose the existence of a disability; there are many reasons an employee may not show documentation or other confirmation of vaccination in the community besides having a disability. Therefore, requesting documentation or other confirmation of vaccination by a third party in the community is not a disability-related inquiry under the ADA, and the ADA’s rules about such inquiries do not apply.

However, documentation or other confirmation of vaccination provided by the employee to the employer is medical information about the employee and must be kept confidential."

Thus, an employer can ask about COVID-19 vaccination statuses and for proof of the same if employees or applicants indicate they are so vaccinated. To the extent the employer will seek to make inquiry about COVID-19 vaccination status, it should do so individually and not in a group setting, and make such inquiry of all employees and/or applicants and not just some without others. The employer should determine the appropriate representative/agent to make such inquiries of employees if it does so. Individual managers or supervisors can be tasked with securing this information, or perhaps HR personnel may do so. Regardless, the employer has an obligation to ensure that those asking the questions and receiving the answers do so in a manner that maintains confidentiality as required by law. Indeed, question K.4. at the link above provides:

"Is information about an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination confidential medical information under the ADA?" (5/28/21)

Yes. The ADA requires an employer to maintain the confidentiality of employee medical information, such as documentation or other confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination. This ADA confidentiality requirement applies regardless of where the employee gets the vaccination. Although the EEO laws themselves do not prevent employers from requiring employees to bring in documentation or other confirmation of vaccination, this information, like all medical information, must be kept confidential and stored separately from the employee’s personnel files under the ADA."

For more information, please click HERE.

The EEOC also supports employers that seek to require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, so long as employers provide reasonable accommodations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on any one or more employees' sincerely held religious beliefs or disability, respectively. In this regard, the EEOC guidance first linked above at question K.1. provides in part:

"Under the ADA, Title VII, and other federal employment nondiscrimination laws, may an employer require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19? (5/28/21)

The federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to the reasonable accommodation provisions of Title VII and the ADA and other EEO considerations discussed below. These principles apply if an employee gets the vaccine in the community or from the employer. … In some circumstances, Title VII and the ADA require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who, because of a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, unless providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. The analysis for undue hardship depends on whether the accommodation is for a disability (including pregnancy-related conditions that constitute a disability) (see K.6) or for religion (see K.12)..."

As to masks and facial coverings, note as well that the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) issued guidance relaxing mask requirements for individuals who have been "fully vaccinated" against COVID-19 (see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html). Bear in mind also that employers have long had an obligation under occupational safety and health laws to provide and preserve a safe and healthy workplace. Accordingly, employers should consult counsel before making determinations about the propriety of abandoning mask usage for personnel when at work indoors and/or on company property, and particularly as to employees who are not vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated its guidance following the recent adjustments by the CDC HERE which you may wish to review for more information.

Some states and locales have also passed legislation and/or issued guidance regarding mask usage and/or mask abandonment in the workplace. You will want to confer with local counsel in your jurisdiction for specific legal advice and to ensure compliance within your organization. 



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